Uwe aka UFO has played the original TR games in the sequence 2, 3, 1, 4, 5 and when he had bought TR5 it did not run on his PC at first because of his old graphics card, so he turned his attention to the other CD in the package and after a quick look to the manual, even quicker closed it again and started building, also driven by his background in doing computer animation work for a living. Three days later he found out that maybe the manual was not such a bad idea and read through it, and another two weeks later one of the very first custom levels was ready and he called it Demo Level (released Dec 6, 2000), as in essence that is what it was and it does not appear in the listing today because Uwe had asked me to remove it. Through irregular building, sometimes full days/nights and sometimes not at all for a few days, he released Coastal Run and the classic Behind the Warp Gate in short succession and it then took a long time before he gave us his masterpiece to date: Return to the Blue Planet with an all newly built custom texture set.
When asked what is most important for him in a level, Uwe does not hesitate and has one word to offer: lights! ("Forget about ambience and place those lights and shadows where they belong"), which is under- standable when you know that he works today as a cameraman for several German cable TV channels. Previously self-employed he now is part of a company which of course provides more job security but also presents him with a new set of challenges ("The fact that I now have a defined number of days of vacation is somewhat strange and I still need to adjust to being able to plan vacation and travel").
Uwe does read the reviews for his levels, mostly in order to have a smile about how people comment on them and appreciates the international contacts they lead to. And indeed he has downloaded a few custom levels and started playing them to get some inspiration but hardly ever played one to the end. His wife supports his level design work and when they play TR they actually do this jointly, i.e. she telling him where to go next and explore. And Uwe shared another observation from his numerous international email contacts: "It seems that for some reason players from the USA have a lot more trouble with getting custom levels installed correctly that do not have an automatic installer." Wonder why that is... Currently Uwe is starting his work on the second level of the project he does jointly with Palopique: Strange World, and I am sure it will be yet another masterpiece to come.
Hans-Willi aka Palopique hit the level editor in March 2001 and did start work by rebuilding the tutorial level and got stuck. So, he began searching the net for help and stumbled across UFO's page and from there a contact and friendship was born that recently resulted in the release of a joint project Strange World, although in fact this level was mainly built by Palo with UFO's help on some of the textures and objects.
But first things first: His first work with the editor with the rather creative title came out quickly and while it was a short level, Palo was quite happy with the result. He benefited from his computer hobby and his MS Access/VBA skills, learned a lot about lighting from UFO and continued editing some 20 hours per week and several nights and eventually came out with his second work – the Continuous Level. This level already clearly marks his style. Palopique claims the most important aspects in his levels are logical puzzles, i.e. not too difficult and more in the mystic, classical TR style, as Egypt is also kind of a hobby for him. The 'shooting' Palopique's First Level was never one of his favorite elements, so enemies will always be scarce.
When asked whether he finds time to play other custom levels, Palo gave me a strange look, as all his building takes way too much time and of course he also has a job as a self-employed tile fixer (now wouldn't you agree this is an excellent basis to become a level designer ;) ) and he is married since about a year ago. He did have a look at The Rescue series by MagPlus and loved it and would like to find an opportunity to meet Pascal and also René Brooymans to exchange thoughts. His wife actually does watch him build/play at times but does not really have any interest in computers ("... as they have more than two screws"). They call a house on the Canary Islands their own and spend most of their vacations over there and in fact in a few years want to move there completely, namely as soon as the hotel they have bought is paid off.
Palo does read reviews about his levels and tries to learn from any constructive criticism they offer and in fact found the reviews about is third and highly acclaimed work Search for Imhotep extremely helpful for his future building. Also, as an anecdote, he once got an email from a guy who congratulated him for this excellent level of his and after a bit more back and forth communication he found out that actually the guy had only completed just about half of it. In the little spare time that remains, Palo does a lot of reading of scientific books and his credo is to move through life in a calm way: "Step by step, as if you would walk through a minefield' and there is simply no issue that cannot be solved.
editor's note: Uwe and Hans' joint projects are Strange World - Lost by the Warp Gate and Strange World 2 - Reactor Critical.